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Tangki Tjuta/Donkeys by Tjanpi Desert Weavers

Title: Tangki Tjuta/Donkeys

Blue sky above a desert, with six donkeys in different sizes made from string and raffia. Tangki Tjuta is Donkeys in Pitjantjatjara language. Created by the Tjanpi Desert Weavers.

Author: Tjanpi Desert Weavers

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: 5th July 2022

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 32

Price: $24.99

Synopsis: Fresh, funny and highly original, Tangki Tjuta – Donkeys is an endearing dual language story about how donkeys came to be a rich part of life for one Aboriginal community. Told in Pitjantjatjara and English.

Long, long ago, we didn’t have donkeys. We didn’t have a lot of the things we have today. We didn’t know donkeys existed.
Our people used to walk with their camels and donkeys from Areyonga to Ernabella. They brought their donkeys here, and left them.


Donkeys are malpa wiru, valuable friends and helpers in the families and desert community of Pukatja (Ernabella) in the APY Lands of northern South Australia. People set off on their donkeys for picnics and longer journeys, always returning home safely.

Told in Pitjantjatjara and English and featuring the whimsical, distinctive sculptures that have made Tjanpi Desert Weavers famous, this dual language Australian story offers warm and humorous insights from an Anangu perspective.

~*~

This is the first dual language book I have read – where the entire text is in two languages. In this case, English and Pitjantjatjara, so people can read in the language they understand, but also be exposed and maybe learn a new language – I read the English but made an effort to read and try to pronounce the Pitjantjatjara words to see if I could. It will be interesting to give the free audio version a listen sometime. This is accessible through Allen and Unwin’s website on the page for the book, or by scanning a QR code in the book if you have access to these. The story is about how donkeys became an integral part of the Pukatja people’s life over the years from the time donkeys were introduced. The story is simple but effective, and allows the voices of the Tjanpi Desert Weavers, giving a voice to the Anangu perspective – based around the experiences of the Pukatja/Ernabella experiences.

A long time ago, maybe in preschool or junior school I remember reading or having Indigenous stories read to me – and I can’t recall their titles or the content, but I do remember enjoying them. I have always loved stories of all kinds, and I love that each story has its own history, and its own background. Each is unique – because every author has their own way of telling a story, even if it has a common theme or connection to another story. I loved the story about how donkeys became part of the lives of the Pukatja community. It showed a different view of the world – one that I didn’t know about so it was new to me – a new story to me, and it is a powerful story that gives the Tjanpi Desert Weavers a voice and allow the world to experience a facet of Indigenous language, culture, and history, allowing people from all backgrounds to gain an understanding of the culture represented in this adorable story.

The story is accompanied by joyful sculptures made from textiles. The sculptures of people and donkeys, and the landscapes they live in bring the world of the Tjanpi Desert Weavers and the Pukatja people to life. It’s a different, fun, and exciting kind of illustration – one that is not often seen in books. I loved that the words and images worked so well together, whether you read the English words, the Pitjantjatjara words, or both. They gave the story a sense of wonder and whimsy amidst the historical story it is getting across to readers in an accessible way for all ages and is one that will work very well as an oral story. It has that feeling of needing to be read aloud to an audience in either language (or both), and t will have a very different effect. It will bring the story to life for anyone hearing it.

Most importantly, it gives Indigenous people a voice and shows that they have important stories as well. I really loved being able to read this and experience something different to what I usually read about, and it shows that we can have stories of all kinds – that there are stories by a diverse range of people that will always find an audience.

2 thoughts on “Tangki Tjuta/Donkeys by Tjanpi Desert Weavers”

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